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The Song of Achilles

The Song of Achilles - Madeline Miller Sometimes a book hits my radar in the strangest of ways – a chance encounter at the used book store, for instance. THE SONG OF ACHILLES waited on the end cap, a brand new hardcover that I couldn’t afford with only $8 in my pocket. So I went home empty handed. But fate had other plans, and eventually brand spanking new paperback of THE SONG OF ACHILLES landed in my hands. The extent of my knowledge on this one was that it won the Orange Prize for Fiction and that it was about Ancient Greece. That’s not a lot to know about something, but when a book catches your eye, it catches your eye, and the rest is history.(Yes, I judged the book based on its cover. Please forgive me.)THE SONG OF ACHILLES is about so much more than just Ancient Greece. It’s a story of love, friendship, grief, family drama, intrigue, and angry Goddesses of the sea. At times, it’s remarkably clear that this novel would even appeal to teens, given the fact that the majority of the story takes place during the tumultuous years of puberty rife with war, combat, and sexual encounters on isolated islands.I was drawn in by page one. Patroclus, our hero and narrator, tells an intriguing tale from the beginning. The son of a King-turned-murderer (kind of) and exile, he has gone through pain after pain after pain. His life was basically thrown through a ringer and spit out the other end, right into the life of Achilles. If you are iffy on a love between two boys (and eventually two men) then this might not be the book for you. But their tale is so heartbreaking and wrenching as fate (and Achilles’ angry Goddess mother) conspires to break them apart.The evolution of the story is rich and fulfilling. From Patroclus’ beginnings as a Prince to his downfall to his rise again at Achilles’ side, each moment is meaningful and masterful. Miller’s writing pulls you into the story and refuses to let you go for even a second. When I read this one, I told myself, “One more chapter.” One hundred pages later, I was still refusing to put this one down. I fell asleep with THE SONG OF ACHILLES clutched in my fingers one night, unable to put it down or turn off the light while reading it.Even though it is not a young adult novel, I would recommend this to older teens who are looking for something with teenage characters (for a good portion of a book) and a higher reading level. The writing is impeccable, and the plot line goes so much further than what we see in the original tale of the siege of Troy (and especially the movie Troy which, let’s face it, was horrible). Miller’s debut novel won much praise and even a few major literary awards, and it was all rightfully earned. This story was the perfect mix of literary intrigue and well-drawn action that left me breathless.Whatever Miller writes in the future, I will be buying a copy the first day. She has a wonderful career in literature ahead of her.VERDICT: Combining a rich romance, breathtaking action, and frenetic pacing toward an inevitable end, THE SONG OF ACHILLES is one of my favorite novels read this year hands down. All fans of literature, from YA to adult, should pick this one up and be ready to savor every word.